Anyone that has had the experience of having a drug addict in their lives can tell you that it is an extremely difficult challenge to face down. But, what do you do if the addict in your life is your child? How does a parent deal with the fact that their child is caught in the throes of addiction? It can be terrifying and infuriating at the same time, and most parents have no idea where to begin. For those who feel lost and helpless on what to do about their addicted child, there are a few basic principles and ideas that will be outlined here that may be able to guide you in finding your own sanity along with effectively assisting your child in getting help.
What is Enabling and How Can Parents Stop Doing It?
Our most common enemy is usually ourselves, and that tends to be especially true for parents of drug addicts. The way that this usually shows up in a parent/child relationship is through the practice of enabling. Enabling is essentially the idea or practice of, either consciously or unconsciously, providing avenues for a drug addicted person to continue playing into the same behaviors that keep them entrenched in their addiction. This can take many forms, and is not always easy to spot, but it is one of the main roadblocks to an addict receiving the help that they need to create a better life for themselves. It could look like continuing to give your child more and more money every time they ask for it, or it could be as simple as just not setting firm enough boundaries to prevent the types of behaviors that come along with addiction. But, in order for a parent to help their drug addict child, the enabling has to stop first. Keep in mind, you as the parent are the first and last line of defense in your child’s life and enabling them to continue in active addiction tears down those defenses incredibly quickly. The first step in ending enabling in your household is recognizing it. You have to be able to learn how you are enabling your child in order to stop it. Then, you need to hold yourself accountable for setting firm boundaries and keeping them. It may be hard to say no to your child that you love, but it is extremely important if you wish to help them that you show them that you will no longer enable their behavior. Al-Anon is an extremely useful resource for parents who are struggling or just starting in this process and can help you to identify which behaviors need to change, and how you can set boundaries that will be both effective and strong.
How to Help A Drug Addicted Child
This is a broad topic, and not one that is answered easily in the space of a blog article. It is also important to remember that every situation is different, and what may have worked for one person may be ineffective for another, and vice-versa. However, it is vital to know that there is always light at the end of the tunnel and that hope is never as far away as it seems at times. Parenting is hard and gets exponentially harder when drugs and alcohol are thrown in the mix. There may be issues with obstinance, laziness, disrespect, or flat out disappearance. All of the challenges that come with addiction are difficult to navigate as a parent, but there are ways to live in the same space without pulling your hair out.
First, remember to breathe and calm down. This may seem oversimplified, but it is something that all of us forget to do at times, and rational decisions are seldom made in emotional situations. There are probably numerous tense interactions with a child in addiction that a parent could name off of the top of their head, and in many of these situations, things could most likely be better handled and reacted to if the parents were able to keep level heads and make rational choices rather than operating off of pure emotion. This may be difficult to do, but you will find your thinking and decision making to be much more effective if you just take a second to breathe and relax before you react to a situation. Second, ask yourself if you are enabling this behavior or folding on a previously set boundary. Addicts, in general, are especially skilled in the art of manipulation when it comes to parents, so be wary of situations in which you feel the desire to flip-flop on things that you have said before. If you feel or know that you may be enabling your child’s addiction, the best way to help them is to correct your own enabling action and create a boundary that you will no longer be allowing them to cross or change your mind on. Third, seek help from a supportive community. Nobody gets through this journey alone, and even though you may feel at times that you are by yourself, there are many others who have been or are currently in the same position as you. As stated above, Al-Anon is an incredibly supportive community in which those close to drug addicts and alcoholics can band together and help each other through the toughest of times with advice, comradery, and guidance. You can find Al-Anon meetings in your area, literature, and other resources at al-anon.org.
Should You Kick Your Child Out of the House for Drug Use?
Again, this is a complicated question, and the answer will be different for each individual situation. In short, it truly depends on your own individual judgement of all of the facts. It is never easy to tell your child to leave your home, but in some cases that may be the best way to show them that you are serious about your boundaries and also keep your own sanity. If this is something that you are considering, it is suggested that you speak with a counselor and seek outside help before you result to drastic measures. Again, Al-Anon can be a very useful resource in helping you to make these decisions.
Overall, there are very few definite yes or no answers to the questions that come with parenting a drug addict child. Hopefully the resources provided here can aid you in formulating your own best way to navigate these waters. Remember, you are not alone and there is help. If you find a supportive community, stay strong in your convictions, and know that your actions are based in love for your child, there is always hope for a brighter future.